Erin McShane grew up in a tight-knit family in Baltimore, Maryland. A visit to the Naval Academy as a teenager changed the trajectory of her life. Seeing the challenges the Academy offered, she thought, “You know what, I could do this.” She applied to both West Point and Annapolis, and eventually chose the Military Academy. Cadet Basic training reinforced her appreciation for her family, and strengthened a bond that would eventually help sustain her through Ranger school. As a Cadet, she majored in Comparative Politics and Portuguese, and jumped with the Parachute Team. After exploring several options, she decided that being an Engineer satisfied her desire for challenges and leadership. After graduation, her first assignment was Fort Belvoir, where she served first in the 911th Tech Rescue Engineer Company, and later in the 249th Prime Power Battalion. While at Fort Belvoir, she had the opportunity to attend Ranger school, but failed the push-up test during RTAC (Ranger Training Assessment Course). After returning to her unit, she earned her Sapper tab, but still wanted another shot at Ranger school. She eventually got that opportunity, and attributes her successful completion of the course to intense preparation, self-improvement, and perseverance following “a string of failures.”
In this interview, she talks about her childhood, seeking challenges, and her experiences at West Point. She describes mentors and commanders who constantly supported her and helped her realize her dreams. She discusses her experiences in RTAC, Sapper School, and Ranger School, and reflects on the lessons she learned about herself and the Army. She explores how RTAC and Ranger School changed from 2015 to 2017 in terms of accepting women, adding that she personally did not perceive sexism to be an issue during her time in Ranger School. Finally, she talks about what West Point means to her.